These three are just to the east of the other house I drew that is on Howard street. This is close to the corner of Howard and North 22nd St in the St Louis Place neighborhood. This one is a little bit closer to the old Columbia/Falstaff Brewery. To the east of 22nd, the area becomes more inhabited with some newer multi-family units, rehabbed rowhouses, and the old brewery. To the west of 22nd the grid turns into an “urban prairie” that I find haunting but alluring.
Across the street from these houses are small Victorian-era brick houses. I would describe one as a brick “shotgun” house with decorative brick corbelling, a roof that is slightly terraced toward the alley. It has one window at the front with shutters and the front door to the left with a small wood deck, a stone foundation, and the small front yard has a damaged white picket fence near the sidewalk. According to here, it was built around 1885. The other one has a roof that slopes toward the street with one dormer. It looks like a one-story from the road but from the side it has two-stories with what looks like a later wood frame addition to the back. This one seems to have more in common with the Second Empire townhouses across the street and was built in 1895. It has a more recessed front door with some painted wood moulding in the entryway, smooth stone foundation at the front, white stone lintels, some brick corbeling along the cornice that is more simple than the other. However, I think it has the front sloped gable roof with dormer that reminds me of Federal Style houses. Now they are in varying degrees of disrepair, cluttered with trash, overgrown grass and weeds, leftover objects from previous owners that felt no need to take them to their new place. Maybe the previous owner died and their relatives didn’t want or couldn’t take the stuff. Who knows? All these houses probably have hundreds of stories to tell.
I think I picked these because they were grouped and are quite different from each other but all were built in 1887/1888. The one on the far left was built in 1887 and the two others were built in 1888. I would describe the two on the left as being Second Empire Townhouses and the one on the right is confuses me a little because it was built at the same time period but has no mansard roof at the front and is more modest but has some later attachments such as the awnings and wood deck. I love the colored shingles arranged in stripes on the mansard in the middle. My guess for the one on the far left, it has lost it’s mansard, which looks taller, and has been replaced with some wood covered in contemporary shingles and the wood corbeling along the cornice is gone. I saw something distinct in each of these in terms of style, and it’s stages of abandonment but don’t look like they are in abysmal shape. Yet you never know. I haven’t seen the back or inside. An intact front can be deceiving. However these don’t look like they have been empty for a real long period of time. I image at one time most of these lots were full with the shorter ones on one side and the taller 2 to 3 story houses on the other. I would also think on each corner were a store or a bar/tavern.
Again so much history, so many stories that seem lost forever. Each one of these houses has something unique about them, a distinct character, additions and can give you insights to previous inhabitants. I suspect the inhabitants of one on the left liked some privacy because of the fence and the bushes. The built on deck and awnings gave shelter from the sun. The deck would give a nice place to sit in the summer. I would suspect these didn’t have air conditioning at one time and St Louis summers can be miserable. Sitting outside and not in a brick oven would be great on a 100 degree summer day. The other two have chain linked fences, not as many bushes and that gave it more connection to the sidewalk and street. I imagine families sitting on their stoops, conversing with others by the fence.
One thing I didn’t mention in my previous post was that St Louis Place has been hit hard by brick thieves. Some people were looking to make a quick buck literally tearing down houses by pulling walls down, setting fires to burn most of the building to rubble and then taking the brick (less work this way, I guess). So anyway, perfectly inhabitable buildings, though vacant, were torn down by “poachers” to sell brick to people around the country. All to make a quick buck. It’s a shame really to lose these types of houses so someone can have a pretty patio. You can read more about the problem of brick thieves here.
I think what i remember most about the drawing is while I was on site it was late in the evening and the sun was setting. In a drawing with no color, it’s hard to tell but the light that evening made everything glow almost orange-pink. The light was very distinct. It was humid and I was getting eaten up by mosquitos. Like many, this was started outside but then finished in my studio. I just started this one so late in the day, I couldn’t finish it there. I rarely ever finish them on site though.
One thing that strikes me when doing these is how isolated I feel. In the middle of the city and it feels quiet but I know that at one time these streets were alive with people, industry and commercial enterprises. I feel like I am sitting and drawing surrounded by ghosts from the past. Under my chair is a brick road covered by cracked asphalt. Sidewalks are cracked and weeds sprout tall, bricks are scattered. The light posts seem frivolous. Sometimes I find pieces of terra cotta, stone, glass, random fragments. I wonder what else was there and is there as a clue to life there.